The top MSW programs for child welfare careers prepare social workers for roles in child protective services or similar positions.
Social work is a broad field with many aspects. Basically, child welfare social workers help families deal with obstacles in their lives. They may also work at the community level to seek the betterment of citizens. An MSW child welfare is another area of specialization for child welfare social workers. A general social worker may work in many areas and that might include children to some degree.
Attending graduate school for an MSW is an excellent way for practitioners to advance into child welfare social work. The child welfare specialty is focused on protecting our nation’s youngest citizens from abuse, neglect, homelessness, and other deplorable conditions. Child welfare specialists often work for the government or nonprofit organizations to place at risk youth, and children in the best possible living environment for health and happiness. Now’s an excellent time to consider child welfare careers because prospects are bright with faster-than-average growth of 12 percent through 2024.
How We Ranked the Best MSW Child Welfare Degree Programs
For our ranking of the best child and family MSW degree programs, the editors at Social Work Degree Center focused on accredited, reputable institutions offering a specialized path to a career working with at risk youth, and in child and family welfare.
1. University of Memphis
The MSW in Children, Youth, and Family at the University of Memphis is a program that offers students the ability to learn practical skills in a flexible, accommodating setting. The goal of the program is to educate advanced professional child welfare social workers to work alongside at-risk populations. The flexible MSW child welfare program allows students to learn at their own pace. Students can attend full-time, part-time, or by virtual learning.
The University of Memphis is a public research university in Memphis, Tennessee. It is classified as an R2 doctoral university, indicating a high level of research activity. Their school of social work is highly regarded and offers both a bachelor’s and master’s degree program. The department promotes a mixture of scholarship and community engagement. Additionally, the child youth and family MSW programs rank in the top schools according to US News and World Report.
Highlights: Flexible course scheduling and top-ranked academic programs
Degree: MSW – Children, Youth, and Family
2. California State University Dominguez Hills
The MSW in Children, Youth, and Family from CSU Dominguez Hills helps students find grounding in the social work industry. This 30 credit hour program takes two years to complete on a full-time schedule. Or it can take three years on a part-time schedule. Through the coursework, students engage in practice opportunities in full range of social work roles. By graduation, students have a solid framework to competently deal with at-risk individuals, families, groups, organizations, and also communities.
The California State University at Dominguez Hills is a public university in Carson, CA. It offers 46 bachelor’s degree programs and 23 master’s programs in specialized teaching subjects. The child youth and family MSW program has accreditation from the council on social work education. Additionally, the program boasts a vibrant community of staff, students, agency social workers, child welfare social workers, and partners committed to improving the lives of people everywhere.
Highlights: Learn hands-on practice skills and create valuable connections with agencies and social work practitioners
Degree: MSW – Children, Youth, and Family
3. Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU)
The MSW in Child and Family Welfare from MVSU prepares students for professional practice at micro, mezzo, and macro levels. This program places special emphasis on social work practice with impoverished minorities living in rural regions. Students work directly with communities in a rural environment, with special attention placed on minority families.
Mississippi Valley State University is a historically black public university near the town of Itta Bena. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges and is part of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Their child youth and family MSW programs are among the best in the state and designed to teach students practical skills needed to address the needs of families living in rural poverty.
Highlights: Study social work from a variety of perspectives and learn an important specialization that will take you far in your career
Degree: MSW – Child and Family Welfare
4. Governors State University
The MSW in Children, Adolescents, and Families from Governors State University is a program designed to prepare advanced practitioners in social work to lead, implement and support social action agendas. In this course, students will gain the practice skills and knowledge to empower ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse at-risk populations. The MSW child welfare program is perfect for those who want to understand the effects of poverty and work with communities to overcome them.
Governors State University is a public university in University Park, Illinois, that offers a variety of bachelor’s, graduate, doctoral, and certificate programs. Their child youth and family MSW programs are offered through the school of social work, which is fully accredited by the council on social work. The goal of the department is to work with communities to fight the dehumanizing effects of poverty and students will learn skills to help eliminate institutional oppression of every kind.
Highlights: Learn practical skills to help children and families solve problems in their everyday lives
Degree: MSW – Children, Adolescents, and Families
5. University of California, Berkeley
The MSW for Strengthening Children, Youth, and Families from the University of California, Berkeley is a program designed to educate students to take on a range of social work leadership and practice roles. The program is a two-year full-time course that requires students to complete a minimum of 12 units per semester. The MSW child welfare course is perfect for those looking to help promote physical, mental, and behavioral health for children and their families.
The University of California, Berkeley is a public land-grant university in Berkeley, CA that has educated and trained over 11,000 social work professionals. Their child, youth, and family MSW programs are fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and the university ranks among the top 10 schools of social work and social welfare in the country. Plus, students in the MSW program have a variety of financial assistance opportunities at their disposal, including fellowships, stipend programs, and student loans.
Highlights: Holistic coursework and financial aid opportunities
Degree: MSW – Strengthening Children, Youth, and Families
6. California State University, Long Beach
The MSW in Child and Family Wellbeing from California State University, Long Beach is a program designed to teach students to use strength and evidence-based approaches to promote positive childhood and family functioning across diverse populations. Through their course work, students will gain knowledge of the policies most important to the lives of children and families, while learning the skills to influence those policies. The MSW child welfare program is designed to provide a framework for practitioners looking to work in Child Protective Services, Schools, and other public agencies.
California State University, Long Beach is a public university in Long Beach, CA, and the second largest in the state university system. The school of social work is highly respected and dedicated to academic excellence, community engagement, and the pursuit of social justice. Graduates of their child youth and family MSW programs have gone on to fulfill roles as child welfare caseworkers, community organizers, social policy analysts, child welfare social workers, medical and industrial social workers, and a variety of other in-demand positions.
Highlights: practical experiences and a variety of career paths available to graduates
Degree: MSW – Child and Family Wellbeing
7. Park University
The MSW in Children and Families from Park University is a program designed to equip students with the necessary skills to help at-risk populations through advanced social work practice while serving individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The program is 33 to 60 credit hours and is offered in an in-person format at the university’s main campus. This MSW in child welfare is one of the few accredited programs with a concentration in behavioral health and is ideal for students who want to learn a clinical approach to social work based on principles from behavioral psychology.
Park University is a private university in Parkville, MO that is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Their child youth and family MSW programs offer a healthy mixture of classwork and fieldwork, as well as a capstone project at the end of the course, developed in collaboration with faculty and community agency partners. Graduates of the program have gone on to fulfill roles as school social workers, child welfare social workers, substance abuse counselors, child abuse counselors, policy advocates, and psychotherapists.
Highlights: Good balance of classroom learning and fieldwork and a focus on behavioral psychology
Degree: MSW – Children and Families
8. University of Pennsylvania
The MSW in Child Well-Being and Child Welfare from the University of Pennsylvania is a program designed to integrate clinical and macro social work practices across the field of child welfare. Under the guidance of experts in the field, students will receive instruction in evidence-based practice and management strategies to learn competence in dealing with children in various settings. The MSW child welfare program is taught by experienced faculty who are well respected in the realm of social work and includes a chance to attend the Pennsylvania Council on Children, Youth, and Family Services in the final semester.
The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, PA, that is considered one of the top schools in the country. The school is well-known for its graduate school programs, including the school of social policy and practice, the department responsible for administering the child youth and family MSW programs. In addition to learning from some of the most experienced faculty in the country, students may also apply for a variety of scholarships, made possible through a gift from Dawn and Michael Ostroff
Highlights: World-class faculty and scholarship opportunities
Degree: MSW – Child Well-Being and Child Welfare
9. California State University, Sacramento
The MSW in Children and Families from California State University, Sacramento is a program designed to teach graduates to become social work professionals in a host of settings, ranging from health, mental health, and child welfare institutions, as well as non-profits and government agencies. The course is offered as a two-year full-time, advanced standing, or three-year part-time program. Through the MSW in child welfare program, students will learn how to promote health and mental health equity, while contributing to sustainable human and social development that addresses the challenges in our society.
California State University, Sacramento is a public university in Sacramento, CA that is consistently rated among the top 50 best public colleges in the country. The division of social work at the school’s college of health and human services offers programs for both full-time students and part-time or weekend students who are currently working. In addition to competitive coursework, students of the child youth and family MSW programs have the ability to participate in the Title IV-E Stipend Program, which provides monetary support for those studying the field of social work.
Highlights: Generous stipend program and a wide network to learn from
Degree: MSW – Children and Families
10. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
The MSW in Children, Youth, and Family from Southern Illinois University is a program designed to equip students with advanced skills in human behavior, social work practice, policy, and critical thinking. The coursework will prepare students to work with economically disenfranchised populations in rural Illinois, as well as in global and international contexts. This MSW in child welfare can be completed in two years and offers internship and study abroad opportunities, as well as small practice classes to ensure individual attention in skill development.
Southern Illinois University is a public research university in Carbondale, Il that enrolls students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Their child youth and family MSW programs are fully accredited by the council on social work education and taught by faculty known internationally for their contributions to the field. Once students complete the coursework, they are invited to join the SIU Alumni Association, which provides a variety of employment and networking opportunities.
Highlights: Small class sizes and a wide range of post-graduation opportunities
Degree: MSW – Children, Youth, and Family
11. University of Toledo
The MSW – Child/Family Track from the University of Toledo is a program designed to prepare students to practice ethically in the field of social work while focusing on social and economic justice. The mission of the social work program is to further social justice through education, community engagement, and research. The 60 credit-hour MSW child welfare program offers a scholarship and fieldwork that prepares students to complete the statewide social work licensure requirements.
The University of Toledo is a public research university in Toledo, Ohio that offers a comprehensive array of academic options across different disciplines and 230+ graduate and undergraduate programs. The college of health and human services hosts the child, youth, and family MSW programs and features 17 graduate programs at over 700 clinical and experiential learning sites. Through the coursework and fieldwork, students will learn the skills to become fully licensed social workers and child welfare social workers, able to practice in the field.
Highlights: Work toward your achieving social work licensure in a competitive academic setting
Degree: MSW – Child/Family Track
12. University of Washington
The MSW – Child Welfare Training and Advancement Program from the University of Washington is designed to prepare students for careers as providers of social services, through a combination of field experience and classroom education. Coursework will equip students with the skills necessary to function in professional social work settings, such as healthcare agencies, child and family services, public social service organizations, and the criminal justice system. This MSW in child welfare is ideal for those looking to obtain their K-12 school social worker certification or other similar designation and want a comprehensive program that will equip them with the skills needed to practice.
The University of Washington is a public university in Tacoma, WA, known for its commitment to community engagement and economic development. The school of social work and criminal justice is a leading institution in the field of social work and is committed to promoting social and economic justice for poor and oppressed populations. Students of the child youth and family MSW programs will benefit from a knowledgeable faculty, a robust alumni network, and an emphasis on real-world experiences.
Highlights: Experienced faculty and an emphasis on practical skills
Degree: MSW – Child Welfare Training and Advancement Program
13. University of California, Los Angeles
The MSW in Child and Family Well-Being from the University of California, Los Angeles is a program designed to educate practitioners of social work with a solid foundation in theory, research, and social policy. The university also offers a Ph.D. in social welfare and many students from the master’s program go on to achieve this degree after graduation. This ms in child welfare offers a strong foundation for those looking to take on higher-level positions in the social work field and want a program with options to excel.
The University of California at Los Angeles is a public land-grant research university in Los Angeles, CA that offers 337 different undergraduate and graduate degree programs. UCLA is considered one of the “Public Ivies” and graduate programs at the Luskin School of Public Affairs are considered among the best in the state. Aside from quality education, students in the child youth and family MSW programs are also invited to apply for any of the 600+ scholarships, grants, fellowships, and postdoctoral awards available.
Highlights: Financial aid opportunities and the ability to go on to fulfill leadership roles
Degree: MSW – Child and Family Well-Being
14. Alabama A&M University
The MSW in Family and Child Welfare from Alabama A&M University is a program designed to prepare students to empower vulnerable populations in rural and urban communities in local, national, and international contexts. The program is grounded in an ESPSE framework, which stands for ecological, perspective, problem-solving model, and empowerment perspective. This MSW in child welfare program is perfect for students who want to learn how to recognize the interconnections between social policy and economic justice to serve at-risk populations in local, national, and international contexts.
Alabama A&M University is a public, historically black land-grant university that is accredited by the southern association of colleges and schools. Their child youth and family MSW programs are fully accredited by the council of social work education and offered through the university’s acclaimed college of education, humanities, and behavioral sciences. Plus students will benefit from nationally recognized faculty and the school’s long-standing partnerships with local, state-based, and national social work organizations.
Highlights: Curriculum rooted in policy and economic considerations and a network of local and statewide partners students may utilize
Degree: MSW – Family and Child Welfare
15. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
The MSW in Families and Children from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a program designed to equip social work professionals with an understanding of how power and privilege, and the lack thereof, shape our society and institutions. The school strives to create an educational environment that is diverse in its approaches to social work, to help students develop the skills necessary to work in sensitive and diverse communities. This MSW in child welfare program is perfect for social work practitioners who are looking to better their understanding of how social systems work through coursework that is challenging and nuanced.
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research land-grant university in the Twin Cities metropolitan area of Minnesota, the oldest and largest in the state’s public university system. The university’s School of Social Work offers the child, youth, and family MSW programs and it’s faculty was ranked 20th out of 76 doctoral social work programs in the US. On top of that, the school is well known for its research facilities and features a variety of outreach centers working to address challenging social issues, that students may take advantage of.
Highlights: Experienced faculty and variety of research opportunities
Degree: MSW – Families and Children
16. University of Indianapolis
The MSW in Children, Family, and Community from the University of Indianapolis is a program designed to give those who are passionate about the field of social work the skills to pursue a career in the field. This course will prepare students for advanced specialized practices and leadership positions in social work, by working closely with experienced faculty to solve important problems in the community. This MSW in child welfare program is perfect for students who want a small class size and hands-on faculty, with the opportunity to pursue licensure and in-demand specializations.
The University of Indianapolis is a private united Methodist-church affiliated university in Indianapolis, IN that offers associates, bachelor’s, masters, and doctoral degrees. Their child youth and family MSW programs are available through the school’s college of applied behavioral sciences, which offers programs in mental health counseling and psychology, in addition to social work. The university has also earned the distinction as a nationally ranked college and is only 10 minutes from downtown Indianapolis for internships and other work opportunities.
Highlights: Small class-size, hands-on faculty, and post-graduation opportunities
Degree: MSW – Children, Family, and Community
17. University of Saint Joseph
The MSW in Children and Families from the University of Saint Joseph is a program designed to prepare students for a career in community-based service as a social worker or related profession. Students will benefit from small class sizes, engaged faculty, academic advising, and helpful career development. This MSW in child welfare is perfect for those who want to study social work through psychological and cultural lenses and want a customizable lesson plan that is tailored to their interests and specialization.
The University of Saint Joseph is a private Roman Catholic college in West Hartford, CT that is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Learning. Their child youth and family MSW programs started in 2014 and follow an innovative student unit model that allows practitioners to gain professional experience while completing a 2-year degree.
Highlights: Career development resources and customizable lesson plans
Degree: MSW – Children and Families
18. Washington University in St. Louis
The MSW in Children, Youth, and Family from Washington University in St. Louis is a program designed to teach students how institutions and systems impact child development and family functioning over time. Students will learn how to use evidence-based decision-making to identify and apply strategies to bring positive change to families in the community. This MSW child welfare program is ideal for those who are looking to work with families directly in schools or community organizations and need the policy knowledge and advocacy skills to do so effectively.
Washington University is a private research university in Saint Louis, MO that is a member of the association of American universities and classified as an R1 doctoral university. Their child youth and family MSW programs are available through the Brown School, one of the top-ranked schools of social work in the nation, which emphasizes evidence-based scholarship and community impact.
Highlights: Emphasis on working directly with children in the school system
Degree: MSW – Children, Youth, and Family
19. Illinois State University
The MSW in Child and Family Practice from Illinois State University is a program designed to analyze four major problems affecting clients; mental illness, domestic violence, poverty, child abuse, and substance abuse. The agency-based practice gives students the opportunity to directly apply classroom learning to working with families in the field. This MSW child welfare program is perfect for those looking to work in mental healthcare, child welfare, child abuse, or substance abuse treatment facilities and needs to learn how to develop, deliver and manage services to meet the needs of clients.
Illinois State University is a public research university in Normal, Il, and is recognized as one of the top ten producers of teachers in the US. Their child youth and family MSW programs are available through the university’s school of social work, which also offers several child welfare certification courses, in addition to bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work.
Highlights: Learn in-demand skills to fulfill roles in a variety of contexts from mental health care to substance abuse
Degree: MSW – Child and Family Practice
20. California State University, East Bay
The MSW in Children, Youth, and Family from California State University, East Bay is a program available for individuals with an interest in working in community mental health agencies, crisis intervention centers, family service agencies, or adolescent services. This MSW child welfare program features a hybrid of face-to-face and remote classes that is perfect for those looking for a flexible way to start a career in one of the aforementioned fields.
California State University, East Bay is a public university in Hayward, CA that is known for award-winning graduate programs, small class sizes, and a highly personalized learning environment. The child, youth, and family MSW programs are presented by the department of social work, who offers a stipend program to graduate social work students looking to pursue a career in child welfare.
Highlights: Personalized educational environment and flexible scheduling
Degree: MSW – Children, Youth, and Family
21. Kutztown University
The MSW in Child and Family Wellness from Kutztown University is a certificate program designed to expand upon bachelor’s degree coursework and increase employment opportunities for students. This MSW in child welfare program is great for current social work practitioners or those who recently received a bachelor’s degree and are looking to get advanced instruction in the specialized focus of child and family wellness.
Kutztown University is a public university in Kutztown, PA that is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and accredited by the Middle States Commission in Higher Education. Their department of social work offers certificates in behavioral health, community development, and leadership and management, in addition to their child, youth, and family MSW programs.
Highlights: Study an in-demand social work specialization while working or pursuing other goals
Degree: MSW – Child and Family Wellness
22. Montclair State University
The MSW in Children, Youth, and Family from Montclair State University is a program meant to prepare future leaders in the social work practice to deal with children, youth, and families in a diverse, globalized society. This 60-credit MSW child welfare program is perfect for students looking for small class sizes and a climate that is conducive to in-depth learning.
Montclair State University is a public research university in Montclair, New Jersey, ranked in the top tier of national universities. Their innovative child, youth and family MSW programs are available through the department of social work and child advocacy features a distinguished faculty with professors from sectors that define the field, including social work, healthcare, psychology, and law.
Highlights: Taught by leading experts in the field of social work and a small class size that is conducive to in-depth learning
Degree: MSW – Children, Youth, and Family
23. University of Cincinnati
The MSW in Children and Families from the University of Cincinnati is a program designed to promote the integration of learning in the classroom with learning in an agency setting. This MSW in child welfare program is perfect for those looking to become a licensed social worker or pursue a Ph.D. in the subject after graduation.
The University of Cincinnati is a public research university in Cincinnati, OH that offers over 300 majors and 100 certificate programs. Their child, youth and family MSW programs are available through the college of applied health sciences, which recently opened a brand new $61 million research building, giving students access to state-of-the-art lab and classroom spaces.
Highlights: Advanced research and Ph.D. opportunities
Degree: MSW – Children and Families
24. San Francisco State University
The MSW – Child Welfare Training Program from San Francisco State University is a two-year, full-time program that aims to educate undergraduate students for generalist social work practice in a variety of social service settings. This MSW child welfare program is perfect for those looking for rigorous hands-on training that will allow them to pursue a social work position in fields like law, public administration, public health, mental health, nursing, or psychology.
San Francisco State University is a public university in San Francisco, CA that features a gorgeous 141-acre campus and a variety of bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certification programs. As a part of the California State University System, students enrolled in the child, youth, and family MSW programs are able to participate in the child welfare stipend program, which offers monetary support to students looking to pursue a career in the field.
Highlights: Financial aid opportunities and hands-on training in in-demand specializations
Degree: MSW – Child Welfare Training Program
25. University of Illinois at Chicago
The MSW in Child and Family from the University of Illinois at Chicago is a program that prepares students with the competencies and behaviors needed to excel in a specialized area of social work. This MSW child welfare program is great for those looking to work with specific at-risk populations, such as the youth in the child welfare system, child abuse, patients with substance abuse disorders, or children with disabilities.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research university and the largest institution of higher learning in the Chicago metropolitan area. The child, youth, and family MSW program is available through the Jane Addams College of social work, which is consistently ranked in the top 10% of graduate social work programs in the country by US News and World Report.
Highlights: Nationally ranked social work programs and close proximity to employers and excitement
Degree: MSW – Child and Family
What is Child Welfare in Social Work?
Someone with an MSW in child and family welfare would work more in the area of helping children and their families resolve conflicts and work with issues of child abuse and neglect. Someone with an MSW child welfare would work with child youth and family MSW programs.
How Much does a Child Welfare Social Worker Make?
People with undergraduate degrees work on entry-level tasks, and that might involve working with children. Child welfare social worker jobs with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $48,000 a year. According to PayScale, median salaries for child welfare services range from $35,836 to $61,042.
However, a person with an MSW in child welfare would allow a person to provide a higher level of care, which might involve diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues. The professional with this degree would also be able to work in-depth on emotional and behavioral disorders of children. A person with an MSW child welfare would be in charge of child youth and family MSW programs at any kind of facility.
Will I Make More with an MSW?
Usually, a person with a master’s degree will get a higher salary than a person with an undergraduate degree. Many people with BSW undergraduate degrees go on to get their MSW in order to further their careers and get more pay. Nationally, the average child welfare specialist salary is $35,000, and that goes up to $60,000 after many years of experience. If you get a master’s in social work with a concentration in child welfare, you could expect to make $10,000 more each year.
The salary can vary a lot depending on where you are and the type of agency you work for. Many child welfare specialists work for various state agencies. No matter the situation, you will make more with a master’s degree.
What is Title IV Child Welfare Training?
Title IV child welfare training program is designed to help get more social workers and child welfare social workers into areas that are underserved. The program offers financial assistance to students in order to help more people with college degrees – both bachelor’s and Master’s – to enter the child welfare social work field.
The Title IV child welfare training program is available in certain states and certain cities. There are jobs people can do involving child welfare social work that does not require a degree, such as a private practice. This program helps people in that situation go to school and get an advanced degree. It would also apply to someone with a bachelor’s degree going back to school to get their master’s in child welfare social work.
Is the Student Aid for Title IV Child Welfare Training a Loan?
The funding for students is a grant and does not have to be paid back like a loan. However, if you drop out before 60 percent of the course work is completed, you may be required to return some of that funding to the federal government.
You are, however, required to find work as a social worker for a state or tribal agency, and work there as a social worker or children for a set amount of time. One semester would equal 4.5 months of employment. You will still get paid at your job, but working at that location for the amount of time you were funded is the requirement.
What Do You Study in Child Welfare Training?
The Title IV child welfare training program involves courses, child welfare field experience, and some specialized training.
Are There Other Degrees Besides an MSW for Child Welfare?
An MSW, or master’s degree in child welfare, is required to get licensed by most states. Another option is an online LCSW program. There are also some other options, however, that will allow you to work with children, and be involved with social work in some way. One option is a Child Welfare Certificate program.
Additionally, a bachelor’s in social work would qualify you for many jobs, such as owning a private practice. One advantage of this degree is that you can get your master’s in social work later and have a head start with your undergraduate degree.
There are associate degrees, which usually take one to two years. Bachelors degrees are also undergraduate degrees and are the standard four-year college degree. A master’s degree in child welfare is needed to be a licensed clinical social worker, but there are many other jobs in this area, and many programs to get trained.
What Qualifications do you Need to be a Child Welfare Social Worker?
Counseling, Mental health, public health, and general education degrees can also help you get a job working on child welfare. Having a degree in social work with a concentration in child welfare is the preferred degree by state agencies. Child welfare degrees have more specific training related to children than a regular social worker degree would have.